- Richard power tests the new Lamborghini Aventador.
- The Stig takes the Lotus T125 for a lap.
- Jeremy and James drive the Nissan Leaf and Peugeot iOn.
- Richard meets a rally team – in which every member is an amputee with a military background.
- Star in a Reasonably Priced Car: Louis Walsh.
The final episode for Series 17 begins with Richard looking at the latest Lamborghini – the Aventador. Lamborghini is a car company that doesn’t like to be rushed. Four of their previous V12 flagship models – the Miura, Countach, Diablo and the Murcielago, span some 50 years. Now there is the £248,000 Aventador – a car which Lamborghini say has more of an emphasis on handling, rather than sheer top speed like their older cars. Richard lines the car up on the run way and launches the it from 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds – eventually getting up to just over 300kph (186mph) before having to break for the end of the runway. Richard tries to calm himself and quips “If that’s then giving top speed a low priority, bring it on!” Given enough space, the Aventador can reach 217mph – faster than the old Murcielago. These impressive figures come courtesy of an all new 6.5L 691bhp V12 – an impressive feat in itself, when you realise most car companies are downsizing their engines while still attempting to increase power. The power is fed to all four wheels via a lightweight flappy paddle gearbox that can shift gears in less than 50ms. Richard selects “Corsa” mode from the on-board computer and then sets about finding out how the car handles. He soon discovers that the Aventador is extremely stable through the bends thanks to F1 style push-rod suspension and the sheer amount of grip available. It is all sounding rather good, but Richard feels that the car has lost the very thing that makes Lamborghini’s of old feel special – the fear factor. It may look a bit mental, but it is a very serious car. The noise it makes is not deafening, the chassis is made from carbon fibre instead of iron and the air-conditioning works – the old Lamborghini feeling of fear and excitement whilst you drive it. Back in the studio, we watch the Stig take the Aventador for a lap – and returns a stunning time of 1:16.50.
In the news, Richard shows us the new Mercedes AMG Black C-class. Jeremy shows us an ad from the back of a 1970’s motorcycle magazine – which features a model that looks surprisingly like James May. Jeremy suggests that the British national anthem should be changed to “Wish you were here” by Pink Floyd, so that Lewis Hamilton could stand on the F1 podium while it plays for 27 minutes. Jeremy also tells us of his plan to keep his Mercedes locked in an underground car park, to see what happens if he doesn’t get it serviced when the car tells him to. Richard suggests that it has been trained to take a cyanide pill in such circumstances. Finally, the Stig takes the Lotus T125 around the Top Gear test track. It does an impressive 1:03.80 – which is still slower than the 59 second lap done by the Renault F1 car.
In the next segment, Jeremy and James go for a drive to the seaside in two electric cars – the Nissan Leaf and Peugeot iOn. Jeremy takes the Nissan and comments on how it drives exactly like a normal car, except that the engine hums like a monk. James takes the futuristic looking Peugeot – which can only manage 81mph and goes from 0-60mph in 16 seconds. Despite this, James doesn’t feel like he is holding anyone up whilst driving. The Nissan Leaf on the other hand, has a larger electric motor and can do 90mph. They both pull over at a motorway services to compare their cars. The Nissan’s electric motor is in the front and looks almost like a conventional engine, whilst the Peugeot has it mounted at the rear, under the floor of the boot. This means it is actually rear engine rear wheel drive – exactly like a Porsche 911! Both cars are extremely expensive – roughly twice the price of an equivalent petrol powered car of this size. Jeremy has a theory, “These days, eco-ism is seen as cool. People like James May and me – petrol heads – we’re dinosaurs really. So if you have one of these cars with ‘zero emission’ and ‘full electric’ plastered down the side, you are more likely to get a girlfriend. You just have to hope that she doesn’t live at the other end of the country.” After some time, both cars begin to run out of range – and they decide to stop over in Lincoln to recharge. Jeremy is rather alarmed however, when the Leaf tells him it will take 11 hours to recharge the batteries. To make things worse, his satnav tells him that the nearest charging location was over 45 miles away – so they go to the local council to confirm this. A staff member confirms that there are no charge points in Lincolnshire, meaning they’d have to simply find a power outlet somewhere to use. After failing to get permission from a local restaurant, the boys run out of electricity and manage to get their cars pushed to a local university and find points to plug in to. By this time, the Leaf reported a recharge time of 13 hours – so Jeremy and James leave the cars behind and find something else to do. They go brass rubbing in a cathedral, go on a guided tour of Lincoln Castle, play scrabble in a local Tea Room, get a tattoo each and go fishing.
The next day they set off again, with Jeremy discussing running costs. To charge the Leaf, it could cost up to £8.30 – which may only get you 100 miles. The cost per mile is very similar to a Volkswagen Golf Bluemotion diesel – which is over £7,000 cheaper to buy. As they get closer to the seaside, Jeremy sums up his opinion – “A lot of people think I have a downer on the electric motor. I don’t – nothing wrong with it at all. Theoretically it could be immensely powerful. And I like the Leaf. Beautifully made, it’s very quiet, it’s extremely comfortable and spacious – good car. But the batteries it uses have to be recharged from the mains and I don’t think that’s the answer. I think that what I’m actually driving is a squarial, or a laser disc, or a beta tape machine.” James agrees, “Batteries.. batteries are rubbish in everything. Think of all the things you’ve got at the moment that are battery powered – like torches and mobile phones and digital cameras and laptops. I bet you, they’re all either completely flat or going flat very quickly.”
Back in the studio, Jeremy introduces Louis Walsh as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. Louis laps the track in a dry and manages a 1:47.70.
In the final segment, Richard goes to a cross-country racing event to check out a team that is a little bit different from the rest. The Race2Recovery rally team is entirely staffed by soldiers who have all suffered massive injuries whilst fighting in Afghanistan. Tom the co-driver, lost his left arm and both his legs, due to an IED mine detonation and subsequent infection. Gav, the team’s mechanic, also hit an IED and lost both of his legs as well. In comparison, Tony the driver feels rather lucky – having only a “below knee scratch” (missing his lower left leg and foot). Richard explains, “The team are using motorsport as a way of helping them come to terms with their injuries.” They have also set themselves an incredible challenge – to compete in the Dakar Rally in just 18 months’ time. To prepare for this, they compete in the cross-country racing event using a number of different off-road cars. First, they begin by using a fairly standard Land Rover Freelander. After a few good runs, Richard has a talk with Gav the mechanic, who breaks down into tears when speaking of a mate he lost in Afghanistan. Richard steps outside and explains, “These guys are soldiers – they’re men of action. They’re used to having challenges, problems, obstacles to overcome by working together as a team. This isn’t a treat, this is therapy – something they need to do, if they’re going to recover as well as they possibly can.”
Next, the team move on to the car they will be driving in the Dakar – a 4L V8 Bowler Wildcat. To help them come to terms with the car, race driver and ex-Stig Ben Collins is brought in to help train them. As they strap in to the car, Richard issues some advice to Tony – “When you’re going round, don’t tell him anything he’ll put it in a book. Just make sure of that, you’ll be all right! If you see him writing just stop talking, leave it at that alright!” Ben takes Tony for a run, before handing the car over to Tony and Tom the co-driver for their first run. They didn’t disappoint, putting in a 9:59. Over the course of the afternoon, they get faster and faster – eventually doing a 9:17 and 9:08. For the last run of the day, they set off in an effort to beat the 9-minute barrier. Sadly, they fail to achieve this – due to a puncture. Richard sums up, “I really hope that these guys do make it to the Dakar – because on spirit alone, they deserve to be there.”
For more information on the team, see http://www.race2recovery.co.uk
“Some say that his favourite T-shirt has a picture on the front of a T-shirt, and that he spent all week waiting for a big cheque from the Germans, because he too has spent the last 2000 years sitting on his backside doing absolutely nothing at all. All we know is he’s called the Stig.”
Stig Power Laps
Star in a Reasonably Priced Car